Newsround – 13th to 19th November 2021 

There was little change in this week’s weather, with the westerly airstream still in place and temperatures remaining above average for mid-November. However, vestigial summer visitors were still to be found alongside some classic winter arrivals.

The third Dark-bellied Brent Goose to be found in the county this year was a juvenile/first-winter, which tagged along with the local Canada Goose flock at Clifford Hill GP on 17th.

Juvenile moulting to first-winter Dark-bellied Brent Goose, Clifford Hill GP, 17th November 2021 (Mike Alibone)

Meanwhile, the Hollowell Res Pink-footed Goose remained there throughout the period and despite last week’s speculation that it may have also visited Stanford Res, photographs clearly indicate it is a different bird.

Pink-footed Goose, Hollowell Res, 15th November 2021 (Alan Coles)

The fifteen-strong raft of Red-crested Pochards also remained at Pitsford Res, as did the three at Stanford, both groups still being present at the week’s end, while 17th saw the reappearance of one of the Greater Scaups at Daventry CP – this one being the bird which had earlier been on site between 1st and 4th November.

And the pick of this week’s ducks deluxe was the first Smew of the winter – two to be precise – discovered on 19th on Brightwells Lake, a small body of water that receives scant attention compared to certain other areas of the Ringstead GP complex, of which it is a part. While the November date may seem a little early for this species in the county, a dig into historical records unearths a number of October birds, the earliest of which was at Stanford on 11th October 1993. The first in the UK this autumn was one at Hornsea, East Yorkshire on 13th October.

‘Redhead’ and moulting eclipse drake Smew, Ringstead GP, 19th November 2021 (Nick Parker)

With no reports for the best part of a month, a Bittern resurfaced briefly at Summer Leys LNR on 14th but other herons were, of course, available … and much easier to see, at that. After last week’s record-busting totals, numbers of both Cattle Egrets and Great Egrets nudged higher still, with the first of these two amassing sixteen in a cattle field north of Ringstead on 16th-17th. Many of these joined the egret roost at Kinewell Lake, while fourteen flying north-east at nearby Stanwick GP, at dawn on 14th, were clearly the same birds.

Cattle Egret, between Woodford and Ringstead GP, 17th November 2021 (Mike Alibone)

Great Egret numbers reached a minimum of sixteen at Pitsford on 15th – the highest ever single-site total for Northants – while nine were counted at Ringstead’s Kinewell Lake on 14th. Elsewhere, Hollowell produced five, Thrapston GP four, Stanwick three and Summer Leys two, resulting in a potential current wintering population of perhaps as many as forty birds. Who said they were rare … ?

Also looking set to winter – or at least in no hurry to move on anytime soon – the Pitsford Wood Sandpiper remained throughout, the long-staying Ruff at Summer Leys was joined by another there on 16th and the Common Sandpiper at Earls Barton GP’s New Workings (North) was still present at the week’s end. The only Jack Snipes found during the period were two near Ravensthorpe on18th.

Ruff, Summer Leys LNR, 14th November 2021 (Leslie Fox)

Gull numbers were once again very low and included a third-winter Caspian Gull at Hollowell on 19th, and an adult Yellow-legged Gull was still at Pitsford on 14th.

In contrast to last week, just one Merlin was seen, this time at Harlestone Lake, on 15th and just when you thought it was all over for Swallows, one was seen flying south-west over Bradden on 13th. It surely is now …

The past couple of weeks has seen a number of late Ring Ouzels moving through the UK and we were not left out. One was found behind Byfield Pool at Boddington Res on 14th and another reported from below Hanging Houghton on 17th, while this week’s Stonechats included four at Thrapston GP on 14th, four at Hollowell between 15th and 19th, two at Earls Barton GP on 15th and one at Sywell CP on 14th and 15th.

Following one last week, three more Hawfinches were reported on 17th, in trees close to the gatehouse at Lilford Park. Unlike the next species, however, they remain in short supply and there would appear to be no sign of an impending invasion.

Newsround – 6th to 12th November 2021 

A predominantly westerly airstream remained in place throughout the period and temperatures were largely above average for early November, clearly suiting some lingering summer visitors.

Against this backcloth, numbers of winter wildfowl were undoubtedly on the increase, some of which, however, were clearly not so wild. Falling squarely into the latter category was the re-emergence of the Cackling Goose, still on the loose in the west of the county, on this occasion with Canada Geese at Stanford Res on 10th. Stanford also played host to a Pink-footed Goose – most likely the Hollowell Res bird – from 9th until the week’s end. Two more Pinkfeet flew east over Nether Heyford on 6th, while the roving female Ruddy Shelduck appeared at Hollowell on 11th.

Pink-footed Goose, Stanford Res, 9th November 2021 (Chris Hubbard)

Making a splash this week were Red-crested Pochards, with arrivals at four localities – most notably at Pitsford Res, where seventeen appeared on 6th and fifteen were still in place at the week’s end. Smaller numbers arriving elsewhere included two at Boddington Res on 6th, three at Thrapston GP on 7th and three at Stanford, which were present from 7th until the end of the period.

Red-crested Pochards, Boddington Res, 6th November 2021 (Gary Pullan)
Red-crested Pochards, Pitsford Res, 11th November 2021 (Martin Swannell)

Pitsford also produced a female Greater Scaup – a one-day bird on 7th, while Daventry CP chalked up its third of the autumn this week, with another first-winter from 8th to 10th.

Female Greater Scaup, Pitsford Res, 7th November 2021 (Angus Molyneux)
First-winter Greater Scaup, Daventry CP, 8th November 2021 (Gary Pullan)

At the other end of the county, Cattle Egrets pushed through to deliver an all-time county high with at least fourteen coming into the roost at Ringstead GP on 12th but away from this site only two were seen, at nearby Stanwick GP, on 9th. In parallel, Great Egrets smashed the site record total this week with at least eleven at Pitsford on 7th and 9th, while totting up numbers from Ringstead, Stanford, Stanwick, Summer Leys LNR and Thrapston suggests the total wintering population in Northants currently is likely to be a minimum of twenty. Ignoring possible Nene Valley duplicates, of course, that excludes any which may be lurking at other local bodies of water which would appear not to have been visited by birders this week.

Great Egret, Pitsford Res, 7th November 2021 (Alan Coles)

And now to the curious case of the ‘Desborough stork’. Seen only as an early morning silhouette on a house roof on 8th, before quickly disappearing, it later emerged that a bird appearing to match the description of a White Stork was seen on a house roof in Wellingborough, last week, on 4th …

Arguably less ephemeral, though never overly easy to catch up with locally, harriers were still in the spotlight, with two species putting in appearances for the second week running. On 8th, a Marsh Harrier flew south over Mary’s Lake at Earls Barton GP, while the 7th saw a ‘ringtail’ Hen Harrier in the Brampton Valley, north of Brixworth, the same bird again being seen within spitting distance, at Blueberry Farm, on 10th. But stealing the limelight was the male Hen Harrier that cruised over the Main Lake and scrape at Summer Leys on 12th, before proceeding to quarter the rough fields either side of Mary’s Lane, its twenty-minute stay enabling a number of on-site birders to catch up with it. However, this was no ordinary male and, sporting an aerial, it has been identified as a satellite-tagged bird known as ‘Apollo’, originating in Lancashire, previously wintering in Spain and more recently having spent time near (the aptly-chosen) Gibraltar Point in Lincolnshire before appearing at Summer Leys. The area it was hunting in would seem like ideal wintering habitat but is it enough to hold its interest? Summer Leys or Spain – where would you rather be … ?

Male Hen Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 12th November 2021 (Alan Coles)
Male Hen Harrier, Summer Leys LNR, 12th November 2021 (Ricky Sinfield)

Topping the bill for waders again this week was the Pitsford Wood Sandpiper, which remained throughout, while others seemingly in no hurry to move on were the long-staying Ruff at Summer Leys and the Common Sandpiper just up the road at Earls Barton GP’s New Workings (North). Which one will crack and go first … or are they all in it for the long haul? A Black-tailed Godwit at DIRFT 3 on 7th and a Jack Snipe at Pitsford on 7th-9th also added to this week’s mix.

Wood Sandpiper, Pitsford Res, 11th November 2021 (Martin Swannell)

By contrast, however, gulls were once again few and far between and included a third-winter Caspian Gull at Daventry on 12th, along with two Yellow-legged Gulls there on thesame date, while an adult Yellow-legged remained at Pitsford until at least 7th.

Continuing last week’s surge, Merlins were found at Sywell AF on 7th, at Harrington AF and in the Brampton Valley on 8th and at Barnwell the following day. We appear to be enjoying an autumn of plenty locally, so far.

In another parallel with last week, two more late Swallows were found, feeding over horse paddocks at Castle Ashby, on 7th, while this week’s Stonechats included one at Pitsford on 7th and twos at Earls Barton on 8th, Thrapston on 9th and Upton CP on 12th. Rounding off the week’s passerines were a Crossbill flying west over Brackley on 8th and a Hawfinch, briefly, at Hanging Houghton on 10th.

Newsround – 30th October to 5th November 2021 

Gale force south-westerly winds on the last day of the month caused widespread minor damage and brought down trees across the county. Much calmer conditions subsequently prevailed, with northerly winds and the first frost of the autumn occurring overnight on 1st of the new month. November – a ‘gap month’ between autumn proper and winter, when summer visitors have long gone, scarce migrants all but dry up and things slow down a bit. But then there were the hangers-on …

Still in place, last week’s Pink-footed Goose remained at Hollowell Res until at least 2nd and after a week without any, a Whooper Swan dropped in to join the local Mutes at Daventry CP on 3rd.

Whooper Swan, Daventry CP, 3rd November 2021 (Gary Pullan)

Again this week, the female Ruddy Shelduck continued to visit Foxholes Fisheries at Crick until 31st but it failed to show subsequently. Following two late Garganeys on 21st October, another, or the same was at Pitsford Res on 4th, while a first-winter Greater Scaup appeared at Daventry CP on 1st, remaining there until at least 4th. This bird was identified as a different individual to the one last seen there on 28th, the latter possibly accounting for the first-winter female which paid a brief visit to Hollowell Res on 3rd.

Seemingly settled was the Black-necked Grebe on Thrapston GP’s Town Lake, where it remained all week.

Close by, at Ringstead GP, there were still nine Cattle Egrets coming in to the evening roost on 4th, the same date seeing four of these at Hall Farm, Irthlingborough, just a short flap up the Nene Valley. Great Egrets, meanwhile, were found at Hollowell Res, Pitsford Res, Ringstead, Summer Leys and Thrapston, with a respectable eight at Pitsford on 4th-5th being the highest number, although this still falls well short of the staggering count of forty-one made not too far away at Rutland Water in late October!

Great Egret, Pitsford Res, 1st November 2021 (Clive Bowley)

Last week’s long-staying Osprey made it into November by the narrowest of margins as the first day of the month was the last day upon which it was seen, when it cruised over Summer Leys, heading west … and with it went last week’s exclusivity.

Juvenile Osprey, Earls Barton GP, 31st October 2021 (Alan Coles)

It was not the only raptor on the beat this week, as November ushered more in. The 1st saw a ‘ringtail’ Hen Harrier at Harrington AF, still present in the area on 4th, while the latter date gave rise to a Marsh Harrier, seen three times during its short stay at Stanford Res.

After none at all during the last review period, waders were back, with one record-breaking bird in particular hitting the headlines. When confronted with a dainty, neatly-speckled, yellow-legged Tringa during the first week of November, the smart money would be on Lesser Yellowlegs, wouldn’t it? But this is, after all, Northamptonshire, so however unlikely the occurrence of a Wood Sandpiper at this time of year would seem, one at Pitsford on 4th-5th cruised easily into the record books as the county’s latest ever, by a comfortable ten-day margin. The previous latest was one at Earls Barton GP on 26th October 1997.

Wood Sandpiper, Pitsford Res, 4th November 2021 (Mike Alibone)

Perhaps aspiring to do the same – although they do occasionally occur in winter – a rather late Common Sandpiper was found at Earls Barton GP’s New Workings (North) on 3rd, while a Ruff at Summer Leys on 1st was likely to be this autumn’s established long-stayer and another was a brief visitor to Pitsford on 4th.

Just one Caspian Gull – a second-winter at Daventry on 30th – and one Yellow-legged Gull – at Pitsford on 4th-5th – were the only scarce Larids during the period.

Following last week’s juvenile male Merlin at Hinton AF, a female was found there on 3rd – just one of five, which included singles at Harrington AF on 1st and in the Brampton Valley on 5th, plus two near Hartwell on 4th.

Female Merlin, Hinton AF, 3rd November 2021 (John Friendship-Taylor)

Another hanger-on from summer was a late Swallow, heading east over Clifford Hill GP on 3rd, while this week’s Stonechats included up to four at both Hollowell and Thrapston, two at Earls Barton and singles at Clifford Hill and Pitsford.

Newsround – 16th to 22nd October 2021 

The weather this week appeared to be a major influencer in terms of movement of wildfowl. Strong south-westerlies and heavy rain were quickly followed by cold north-westerlies in the latter part of the week, as a deep low pressure system swept east across the country.

So, with a favourable tail-wind, Whooper Swans were the order of the day on 21st-22nd, when they were found at four localities. In the vanguard were two at Pitsford Res, briefly, on 19th, subsequently followed by one at Stanford Res early in the morning of 21st, that number having risen to three there in the evening. On the same date, three flew south-west over Stanwick GP and two were found at Clifford Hill GP – shortly to be joined by two more before the morning was out. Pitsford was back in the game on 22nd, when one was discovered among the Mute Swans there early on and five passed east through Stanwick’s airspace later in the afternoon.

Whooper Swan, Clifford Hill GP, 21st October 2021 (Mike Alibone)
Whooper Swans, Clifford Hill GP, 21st October 2021 (Ant Hall)

DIRFT 3 held on to its Cackling Goose on 18th, while the female Ruddy Shelduck and the drake Cape Shelduck were also both on site on 16th but their recently developed liking for nearby Foxholes Fisheries at Crick saw them spending more time there – daily from 17th to 20th and again on 22nd.

Female Ruddy Shelduck and drake Cape Shelduck, Foxholes Fisheries, Crick, 17th October 2021 (Joan Chaplin)

The last vestiges of summer were evident at Ditchford GP on 21st, where a juvenile Garganey was dozing among surface weed in the sunlit shallows of Delta Pit on 21st. One was also present in Pitsford’s Scaldwell Bay on the same date. These two are clearly late but not the latest ever in the county – that accolade goes to a bird at Earls Barton GP on 13th November 2015.

Juvenile Garganey, Ditchford GP, 21st October 2021 (Mike Alibone)

A drake Common Scoter dropped in at Boddington Res late on 20th, while a further hint of winter materialised in the form of a female Greater Scaup at Sywell CP, the following day. ‘Duck of the week’, though, was, indisputably, the ‘redhead’ Red-breasted Merganser, which played hard to get, appearing to roost on Stanwick’s Main Lake and being seen only briefly at first light on 21st and 22nd before flying off west to whereabouts as yet unknown. The erratic appearances of this skinny sawbill in the county already render it difficult to catch up with. It’s by no means annual and the last records were of single birds in 2019 and 2016.

Female Greater Scaup, Sywell CP, 21st October 2021 (Mike Alibone)

Looking settled, last week’s Black-necked Grebe remained throughout the period on Thrapston GP’s Town Lake, as was the Bittern at Summer Leys – at least until 19th.

Bittern, Summer Leys LNR, 19th October 2021 (Paul Wyer)
Bittern, Summer Leys LNR, 19th October 2021 (Ray Seagrove)

Cattle Egrets upped their number to seven at the Ringstead GP roost on the latter date and they continued to be seen at Stanwick, where there were four at the week’s end, while three visited cattle fields below the church at Irthlingborough on 21st. Stanwick also hosted the highest number of the period’s Great Egrets, three, while ones and twos were also seen at Daventry CP, Pitsford, Ringstead and Summer Leys.

Last week’s juvenile Osprey, continued to roam the Nene Valley between Billing GP and Summer Leys from 16th to 21st and a male Hen Harrier flying north-west over Daventry CP on 18th was the only other raptor worthy of note.

Juvenile Osprey, Summer Leys LNR, 20th October 2021 (Roger Hawkins)

The long-staying juvenile male Ruff also remained at Summer Leys until at least 19th, otherwise scarce waders were at a premium.

This week’s scarcer larids were limited to three Caspian Gulls – a third-winter at Daventry on 18th and single adults at Boddington on 18th and Pitsford on 19th, while Yellow-legged Gulls included a maximum of six at Boddington on 18th, up to three were at Thrapston between 18th and 22nd and two at Pitsford on 19th-20th.

Third-winter Caspian Gull, Daventry CP, 18th October 2021 (Gary Pullan)

Passerines were again in short supply with four Stonechats at Thrapston on 18th being the highest count, plus two at Earls Barton GP on the same date and singles at Pitsford on 20th-22nd and at Oundle and Summer Leys on 18th. And finally … about to enter super-rare status, a Rock Pipit was at Stanwick on 17th – only the second in the county this year after one at the same site on 21st March. Times are getting hard …

Newsround – 9th to 15th October 2021 

It was a largely dry week with a bias toward an Atlantic-borne mixture of northerly and westerly airstreams. Nevertheless, the county enjoyed some class arrivals and more than a hint that winter is only just around the corner.

And that hint materialised in the form of migrating geese – all seemingly genuine and kicking off with a small skein of thirteen Pink-footed Geese flying south-east over Willowbrook Industrial Estate, Corby on 11th.

Pink-footed Geese, Corby, 11th October 2021 (James Underwood)

These were followed the next day by an adult Dark-bellied Brent Goose, found at DIRFT 3, where it remained until at least 14th. Amazingly, this is the second record for this industrial development site, following one there in January 2018.

Adult Dark-bellied Brent Goose, DIRFT 3, 12th October 2021 (Gary Pullan)

In line with recent arrivals in Gloucestershire, Norfolk, South Yorkshire and Worcestershire, a White-fronted Goose was also found, at Clifford Hill GP, on 13th and, furthering the winter theme, six Whooper Swans were seen heading east over Summer Leys LNR on 15th.

Entering the murky underworld of the dark and the dubious, this week’s roll-call at DIRFT 3 exposed the ongoing presence of the Cackling Goose, the female Ruddy Shelduck and the drake Cape Shelduck throughout the period, although the latter two enjoyed some time away at nearby Foxholes Fisheries, Crick at the beginning of the week.

On 15th, a new Black-necked Grebe was found to still be present on Thrapston GP’s Town Lake after news emerged of its earlier discovery there on 12th. Coming a full four weeks after the last, this is the 6th record of the autumn and the only bird which has stayed for more than one day.

Bittern, Summer Leys LNR, 11th October 2021 (Alan Coles)

A Bittern was seen briefly at Ditchford GP’s Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows LNR on 13th and, other than the one which continued to feature throughout the period, Summer Leys has had a lean autumn to date, so the appearance of a Spoonbill there on 9th helped put the site back on the map this week. Despite being an almost annual visitor to the county, this was only the second record for 2021, the previous one being of two that briefly toured the Nene Valley between Summer Leys and Stanwick GP on 8th-9th April.

Adult Spoonbill, Summer Leys LNR, 9th October 2021 (Stuart Mundy)

Cattle Egrets continued to be seen at Stanwick, where there were two on 12th but further down the valley at Ringstead GP at least four appeared to be roosting on the same date and this number had increased to six on 14th. This week’s Great Egrets were found at Hollowell Res, Pitsford Res, Stanwick, Summer Leys and Thrapston the highest site total being three at Pitsford on 14th.

Two days after the Spoonbill, Summer Leys produced an Osprey, which was presumably the same bird – a juvenile – seen nearby at Earls Barton GP’s New Workings (North) on 14th.

Juvenile Osprey, Earls Barton GP, 14th October 2021 (Leslie Fox)

The long-staying juvenile male Ruff also remained at Summer Leys all week, while a westbound Curlew flew over the site on 9th.

Juvenile male Ruff, Summer Leys LNR, 11th October 2021 (Paul Wyer)

Gull roosts continued to deliver the goods, with Boddington and Stanford vying for pole position, the latter holding a first-winter Mediterranean Gull on 11th and 13th, joined there by a second-winter on the first of these two dates, while an adult was at Boddington on 13th.

Mediterranean Gulls, Stanford Res. Left: second-winter, 11th October 2021, right: first-winter 13th October 2021 (Chris Hubbard)

The 11th also produced an adult Caspian Gull at Stanford, while the Boddington roost held two Caspians – a second-winter and a fourth-winter – on 13th. Elsewhere, an adult and first-winter Caspians were at DIRFT 3 on 12th and an adult visited Earls Barton GP’s New Workings (North) on 14th.

Adult Caspian Gull, DIRFT 3, 12th October 2021 (Gary Pullan)

Other gulls were available, of course, and a sprinkling of Yellow-legged Gulls included one at Stanwick on 12th, four at DIRFT 3 on the same date, four at Boddington on 13th, five at Thrapston GP on the latter date and one or two at Pitsford on 14th.

A high-flying Short-eared Owl, west over Daventry CP on 13th, is hopefully in the vanguard of more to come.

While passerines were thin on the ground, what the week lacked in quantity was made up for in quality when the Stanford Ringing Group trapped and ringed a Yellow-browed Warbler on 12th. It showed well, on and off, for 20 minutes after being released. As well as being only the sixteenth county record, this bird is the seventh for the site, the sixth to be ringed there and the fourth in consecutive years. There is now an annual air of expectation – if not predictability – of this species finding its way into a net in late autumn at this site.

Yellow-browed Warbler, Stanford Res, 12th October 2021 (Chris Hubbard)

A single Whinchat, along with approximately ten Stonechats, was at Borough Hill on 9th, two more Stonechats were found at Thrapston GP on 15th and singles were at Stanford on 9th, Harlestone Heath on 12th, Hollowell on 14th and Pitsford on 15th.

Let’s hope the autumn magic continues …

Newsround – 2nd to 8th October 2021

A wet start to the period and locally forecast gales that failed to materialise preceded a tantalising ridge of high pressure that crept in from the east near the week’s end. But never mind the weather, as autumn proper got underway October started with a bang!

But before all that, lining up for a gander were the exotica of DIRFT 3, with the Cackling Goose, female Ruddy Shelduck and drake Cape Shelduck continuing their presence throughout the week. And as the pendulum swings from the fence-hoppers to the genuinely wild, passing on the 5th, Hollowell’s Pink-footed Goose mid-swing, two Garganeys were found on Earls Barton GP’s Hardwater Lake on 6th.

Female Ruddy Shelduck, DIRFT 3, 8th October 2021 (Mike Alibone)
Drake Cape Shelduck, DIRFT 3, 5th October 2021 (Mike Alibone)

Indisputably, however, bird of the autumn – and for some, of the year – was apparently the UK’s only inland Leach’s Petrel of the period, at Pitsford Res, on 2nd. The first in the county since 2008 and 24 hours earlier than predicted, it did the decent thing and remained on view, north of the causeway, until the early evening. Full details here.

Leach’s Petrel, Pitsford Res, 2nd October 2021 (Bob Bullock)
Leach’s Petrel, Pitsford Res, 2nd October 2021 (Bob Bullock)
Leach’s Petrel, Pitsford Res, 2nd October 2021 (Mike Alibone)

The Summer Leys Bittern was back on show, almost daily, during the week – again providing principally flight views, while a Cattle Egret appeared at Ringstead GP on 5th and two were still at Stanwick GP on 5th-6th. Remaining rather low-key, Great Egrets were reported only from Ditchford GP, Earls Barton/Summer Leys, Hollowell Res, Pitsford Res and Stanwick, the highest site total being three at Summer Leys on 5th.

Bittern, Summer Leys LNR, 2nd October 2021 (Ricky Sinfield)

Reigniting the seabird theme, a juvenile Northern Gannet was a nice surprise for two startled observers as it cruised at little more than tree-top height, west over Weedon Bec, late in the afternoon of 7th. This one fits in nicely with the autumn prevalence of occurrences in the county and was one of a number of individuals seen inland over Cambridgeshire, East Yorkshire, Lincolnshire, London and Nottinghamshire during 6th-7th. A much more frequent visitor than Leach’s Petrel, it would appear to be about the 43rd record for Northants.

With autumn wader passage beginning to feel like a distant memory, only the long-staying juvenile male Ruff at Summer Leys is really newsworthy. It remained all week.

Gulls bounced back a bit this week, with an adult Mediterranean Gull in the roost at Boddington Res on 4th, the same roost also including adult Caspian Gulls on 4th, 5th and 7th, with a first-winter and a fourth-winter also present there on the latter date. Further adult Caspian Gulls were found at DIRFT 3 on 5th and 8th, the individual on 8th sporting a yellow ring inscribed with the characters XLVH. This enabled it to be traced back to eastern Germany, where it was ringed as a 4th calendar year male on 29th April 2021 at Gräbendorfer See, approximately 40 km from the border with Poland and approximately 1,019 km from DIRFT 3. An adult also visited Stanford Res on 8th.

Adult Caspian Gull, DIRFT 3, 5th October 2021 (Mike Alibone)

Between one and three Yellow-legged Gulls were seen in the Boddington roost, at Pitsford, Ringstead and Stanwick, while Thrapston GP produced the week’s maximum of five on 7th. More intriguing, though, was a super, smart-looking, diminutive black-backed gull, which ticked all the boxes for Baltic Gull, in the Boddington roost on 4th and coincided with the appearance of an identical bird at Cley, Norfolk on the same evening.

Adult Baltic Gull candidate, Boddington Res, 4th October 2021 (Gary Pullan)

Completing the back-end miscellany of the systematic list, a female Merlin spent an hour and a half around the Main Barrage Lake at Clifford Hill GP on 3rd, a single Whinchat, along with three Stonechats, was near Moulton on 2nd and two more Stonechats were at Willowbrook Industrial Estate, Corby on 4th, while three were at DIRFT 3 on 8th.

Stonechat, Corby, 4th October 2021 (James Underwood)
Northern Wheatear, Stanford Res, 6th October 2021 (Chris Hubbard)

The only Northern Wheatear this week was one at Stanford Res on 6th and a lone Crossbill was seen in flight close to Harlestone Firs on 5th.

Newsround – 25th September to 1st October 2021 

A somewhat unsettled week, dominated by Atlantic low pressure systems and gales as we nudge into October and once again, little in the shape of new birds.

And it’s as you were on the waterfowl front, with the Cackling Goose still at DIRFT 3 on 26th. It closely resembles the race minima, but it appears a little on the large size and this subspecies is widely kept in captivity in both Britain and Europe …

Cackling Goose, DIRFT 3, 29th September 2021 (Mike Alibone)

New in or just the local wanderer, a Pink-footed Goose was found at Hollowell Res on 29th, a single Garganey remained at Daventry CP on 26th-27th and three Red-crested Pochards appeared at Clifford Hill GP on 28th.

The Summer Leys Bittern failed to show during the week but the rarely sought Stortons bird was seen in flight there on 26th, while the rather less cryptically-coloured Cattle Egrets remained visible at Stanwick GP, where there were at least four on 25th-26th. Compared with last week, Great Egrets were more widespread, with records coming from the ten localities of Blatherwycke Lake, Daventry CP, Deene Lake, Earls Barton GP, Hollowell Res, Pitsford Res, Naseby Res, Stanwick GP, Summer Leys LNR and Thrapston GP, although no more than two were present at any of these.

Quality, not quantity, was the theme when it came to this week’s raptors – specifically a Goshawk, which was seen circling over Byfield before drifting east, on 25th. The status of this species in the county remains a mystery. Once thought to be a secret breeder, it was never proven and records are few and far between.

Wader movements remained at a low ebb, with just a single Black-tailed Godwit at Thrapston GP on 1st, the long-staying juvenile male Ruff still at Summer Leys on 28th and a Greenshank remaining at Daventry CP until at least 27th.

Black-tailed Godwit, Thrapston GP, 1st October 2021 (Nick Parker, videograb)

Gulls, too, were in shorter supply than of late, with just a juvenile/first-winter Caspian Gull at Summer Leys on 27th. Yellow-legged Gulls maxed out with three at Thrapston GP on 28th after two there on 26th, up to two at Pitsford between 26th and 30th and singles at Stanwick on 25th and Summer Leys on 27th.

Adult Yellow-legged Gull, Earls Barton GP, 1st October 2021 (Leslie Fox)

A Common Redstart – perhaps this year’s last – was at Harrington AF on 25th, while last week’s three Stonechats remained at Hollowell on 30th and one visited Pitsford on 28th.

Stonechat, Pitsford Res, 28th September 2021 (Mike Alibone)

Newsround – 18th to 24th September 2021

A warm, southwesterly airstream dominated this week’s weather, delivering largely clear skies and temperatures well above the norm for the time of year. Indeed, it’s been mooted that we could be heading for the warmest September on record …

Conditions which, of course, are not conducive to delivering the goods, locally. In fact, Northamptonshire birding has been well below par this autumn when it comes to producing the icing on the cake. It would appear that the shortage of supplies in various sectors, said to be as a result of the Covid pandemic, has filtered through to the rare and the scarce of the bird world, with local birding of late being akin to pulling teeth … or maybe we simply exhausted our annual quota during the spring, which was one of the best in the county for many, many years. So, this week’s Newsround is, in essence, pretty much a copy and paste of last week’s … again.

This week’s token dodgy waterfowl is represented by a Cackling Goose at DIRFT 3 on 21st. Showing some characteristics of the race minima, it’s similar to the bird here but clearly not quite the full shilling.

And this was the week that Garganey loyalty to the localities of Daventry CP and Stanwick GP finally collapsed, with new birds appearing at Ditchford GP, where there was one on 20th and two on 21st, and at Pitsford Res, where one was found on 23rd. Stanwick hung on to one until 21st, while Daventry retained a single bird throughout the period. In contrast to last week, only the Pitsford Red-crested Pochard remained, being seen on 20th.

Once Bittern, twice not so shy, as again this week the Summer Leys bird showed itself on several occasions to those who were prepared to exercise patience. It was still present on 21st.

Bittern, Summer Leys LNR, 21st September 2021 (Tony Stanford)
Bittern, Summer Leys LNR, 20th September 2021 (Adrian Leybourne)

Cattle Egrets remained in the Ditchford/Stanwick area throughout, with five at Irthlingborough Lakes & Meadows on 19th, followed by one there the next day and two were at Stanwick on 20th, six on 21st and five on 24th.

Cattle Egrets, Ditchford GP, 19th September 2021 (Mike Alibone)

Six was the highest single site tally of Great Egrets, coming from Pitsford on 22nd, Stanwick held three on 19th, while up to two were seen at Daventry, Ditchford, Hollowell and Summer Leys.

On the raptor front, a Marsh Harrier lingered at Stanford on 20th-21st and another flew high over Summer Leys on 22nd, while a White-tailed Eagle, female G318 from the Isle of Wight reintroduction scheme, took a leisurely route from Leicestershire, along the Nene Valley, to Oxfordshire on 18th-19th. G318 is no stranger to the county, having first passed through Northants on 4th April 2020, before visiting the county again this year, between 1st and 3rd February.

Route taken by satellite-tagged female White-tailed Eagle, G318, through Northamptonshire, 18th-19th September 2021 (Tim Mackrill)

With wader movements clearly on the wane, up to three Curlews were still present at DIRFT 3 between 18th and 21st and single Black-tailed Godwits visited Summer Leys on 21st and Pitsford on 22nd. Three Ruffs were at Pitsford on 22nd, two were at Summer Leys on 18th, one remaining there until at least 21st and one flew high east over Earls Barton GP New Workings (North) on 18th. Apart from that, residual Greenshanks included singles at DIRFT 3 on 19th and 24th, Daventry from 20th to 24th and in flight, west, over Naseby Res on 21st.

Juvenile Black-tailed Godwit, Pitsford Res, 22nd September 2021 (Ant Hall)

For a species which has recently bred in the county and the population of which is increasing generally, Mediterranean Gull has remained strangely scarce this autumn, with this week seeing just one, a first-winter, at Daventry on 24th. The latter site also produced a second-winter Caspian Gull on 20th, while the Boddington Res gull roost held a juvenile Caspian on 22nd and an adult and a fourth-winter on 24th. There was no shortage of Yellow-legged Gulls, Stanwick inching into double figures with eleven on 21st, followed by eight there on 24th. Elsewhere, three were at Ditchford GP on 19th and 21st, twos at Daventry on 21st and Boddington on 24th with one at the latter site on 22nd and singles at Earls Barton on 18th, 19th and 23rd and at Pitsford on 21st.

Adult Yellow-legged Gull, Earls Barton GP, 19th September 2021 (Mike Alibone)

Although most terns have departed by late September, four juvenile Common Terns were at Daventry on 23rd, being joined briefly by two – more typically late – juvenile Arctic Terns, all six birds flying off north-west early in the day. In a similar fashion to last week, one more Black Tern, a juvenile, came through at Pitsford on 21st.

On the passerine front, Common Redstart numbers were still on the wane, with singles still at Blueberry Farm, Maidwell on 20th and one still at Lamport on 21st. Single Whinchats were still in the Brampton Valley, at Harrington AF on 21st, Borough Hill on 22nd and Hollowell on 24th. Stonechats also put in an appearance this week, with one at Hollowell on 20th increasing to three there on 24th, two at Willowbrook Industrial Estate (Corby) on 21st and three at Borough Hill on 22nd, while only two Northern Wheatears comprised singles at Harrington between 18th and 22nd and one at Orlingbury on 23rd.

Moving into the last week of September, we can perhaps take heart from history. In previous years, this week has produced some class Yankee waders with, for example, Semipalmated Sandpiper, Lesser Yellowlegs and Wilson’s Phalarope having turned up in the county during this late September window. We’ll see …

Newsround – 11th to 17th september 2021

Apart from a deluge on 14th, it proved to be a largely dry week with above average temperatures, although winds were strongly influenced by Atlantic weather systems. While there were still some smart birds to be admired, the air of expectancy now hangs thick as the early morning mist, as autumn begins to mature …

But another week passed with nothing new. Even the slot of last week’s Ruddy Shelduck was filled by an escaped Cape Shelduck, which clearly didn’t cut the mustard. Found at Stanford Res early in the afternoon of 16th, it had relocated to Pitsford Res by the end of the day.

Cape Shelduck, Pitsford Res, 16th September 2021 (Ant Hall)

Numbers of Garganey dwindled this week, with Daventry CP and Stanwick GP maintaining their strange duopoly, the former site still holding two on 12th-13th, with one remaining until 17th and the latter hanging on to one all week.  Apart from a one-day bird at Pitsford in July, there has been none found at any other locality this autumn. Conversely, Red-crested Pochards were on the up – three appearing at Thrapston GP on 12th, the long-staying female at Stanford being joined by a drake and another female on 16th, while the eclipse drake was seen again at Pitsford on 16th-17th.

Continuing the run of one-day birds, the fifth Black necked Grebe of the autumn, an adult, was found at Daventry CP on 14th.

Adult Black-necked Grebe, Daventry CP, 14th September 2021 (Gary Pullan)

And for anyone prepared to play the waiting game, a Bittern proved a popular draw at Summer Leys LNR, on occasions showing reasonably well from the Pioneer Hide on 11th, 12th 16th and 17th. Another was seen and photographed at Stortons GP on 12th.

Bittern, Summer Leys LNR, 16th September 2021 (Ricky Sinfield)

Other, not so cryptic, herons were available of course, with up to five Cattle Egrets at Stanwick throughout, while Great Egrets maxed out with four at Pitsford, up to three at Earls Barton GP/Summer Leys, two apiece at Daventry and Thrapston and one at Stanwick.

Great Egret, Earls Barton GP, 15th September 2021 (Mike Alibone)

The week’s token Osprey flew over Stanford on 11th, likewise, a juvenile Marsh Harrier appeared at Pitsford on the last day of the week. Potentially bigger than both – in more ways than one – was the belated report of a White-tailed Eagle over Brixworth on 10th. The crew from the Isle of Wight reintroduction scheme have kindly confirmed it was not one of theirs …

Waders continued to trickle through, with 3 Curlews still roosting at DIRFT 3 until at least 16th and another in flight over Daventry CP on 13th, the latter site also producing 2 Black-tailed Godwits between 13th and 15th and three on 17th. Single Black-tailed Godwits also visited Hollowell Res and Summer Leys on 13th.

Juvenile Black-tailed Godwit, Daventry CP, 14th September 2021 (Gary Pullan)

Last week’s Ruffs remained at Daventry until 12th and at Summer Leys all week, with two present there on 12th, while the two smart juvenile Little Stints remained on DIRFT 3’s A5 Pools until 14th. Daventry’s two Greenshanks hung on until 15th, one was at DIRFT 3 on 12th-13th and another dropped into a small pool in suburban Kettering on 13th.

Another quiet week for gulls again saw just one Caspian Gull, a juvenile, at DIRFT 3 on 16th and Yellow-legged Gull numbers also remained low, with five at Stanwick on 16th, up to four at Pitsford between 14th and 17th and singles at Earls Barton GP on 15th and 17th and at Boddington Res, Daventry and Thrapston on the last of these two dates.

Adult Yellow-legged Gull, Pitsford Res, 14th September 2021 (Mike Alibone)
Adult Yellow-legged Gull, Earls Barton GP, 17th September 2021 (Mike Alibone)

Still in short supply, one more Black Tern came through this week – another short-stayer at Hollowell on 11th.

Juvenile Black Tern, Hollowell Res, 11th September 2021 (Jon Cook)

On the passerine front, Common Redstart numbers began to dwindle, with ones and twos on odd dates at Borough Hill, Blueberry Farm (Maidwell) and Harrington AF, plus two trapped and ringed at Stanford Res on 11th, three still up the road at Stanford on Avon on the same date and at least six between Old and Pitsford Res on 12th.

Male Common Redstart, Stanford Res, 11th September 2021 (Ewan Turner)

Whinchats followed a similar pattern, with up to three in the Brampton Valley and up to two at Blueberry Farm – all between 12th and 15th, two at Harrington AF on 12th and one at Hollowell on 16th.

Whinchat, Blueberry Farm, Maidwell, 14th September 2021 (Paul Burrows)

Nor were there any great numbers of Northern Wheatears this week, with singles in the Brampton Valley, Harrington and Pitsford – all on 12th, Willowbrook Industrial Estate (Corby) on 13th, Pitsford again on 15th, Hollowell on 16th and Harrington on 17th, when two were also at Pitsford.

Newsround -4th to 10th September 2021

Temperatures reaching the high twenties, a south Scandinavian high and a south-easterly airstream out of Europe and beyond, so what more could you ask for in early September? Well, some different birds would be good for a start …   

Instead, back for a teasing visit, the peripatetic female Ruddy Shelduck once more dropped into DIRFT 3 on 10th but had vanished again before the following day. Both Daventry CP and Stanwick GP maintained their joint, daily Garganey run, with the count at Daventry peaking at four on 4th and Stanwick finishing with two on 10th. And the beat goes on with Red-crested Pochards – two out of last week’s three individuals sticking it out at Pitsford and Stanford Reservoirs throughout the period.

This autumn’s run of Black necked Grebes also continued, with singles at Pitsford on 4th and Clifford Hill GP on 6th. True to form – at least as far as this year goes – neither of them lingered for more than a day.

And talking of form, Cattle Egret numbers at Stanwick climbed to seven on 9th – a figure close to that we were used to seeing last year, as well as being the highest total, so far, in 2021. Five localities produced Great Egrets, with Pitsford holding birds daily and maxing out at three on 7th and 9th. Elsewhere, two visited Daventry CP on 9th and singles were at Hollowell Res on 6th, Summer Leys LNR on 6th and 10th and in flight over Little Irchester on 9th.

Great Egret, Summer Leys LNR, 7th September 2021 (Alan Coles)

It was the turn of Thrapston GP to produce the week’s only Osprey, with one flying north-east over there on 5th, while the only other raptors of note were single Marsh Harriers at Stanford and Summer Leys – both on 4th.

On the wader front, last week’s celebrity Little Stint was also this week’s celebrity Little Stint, remaining on Pitsford’s dam until 5th, during which time it became increasingly flighty, finally moving off for good after being subjected to increasing disturbance from recreational activities. Up to three remained at DIRFT 3 all week, increasing to four there on 10th, while another was found at Thrapston GP on 8th.

Juvenile Little Stint, Pitsford Res, 3rd September 2021 (Bob Bullock)
Juvenile Little Stint, Pitsford Res, 3rd September 2021 (Bob Bullock)

DIRFT 3 also hosted all of this week’s Curlews – up to three, in fact – as well as producing four Ruffs on 5th. A single Ruff remained at Daventry all week and another appeared at Summer Leys on 10th. Daventry also featured the most Greenshanks – four on 4th, dropping to two for the remainder of the period, while one was at Pitsford on 4th-5th.

A peculiarly quiet week for gulls saw just one Caspian Gull, a first-summer, at Daventry CP on 7th and Yellow-legged Gull numbers also remained low, with the highest counts of seven at DIRFT 3 on 4th and four at Stanwick on 9th, while singles were at Daventry on 4th, 7th and 9th and Pitsford on 7th-8th.

And this year’s dearth of Black Terns continues with one briefly at Stanford on 5th, before hot-winging it high to the south-east, and two also made a short stop at Daventry the following day.

A report of a Siberian Chiffchaff at Pitsford on 9th kicks off the passerines summary for the week but for sheer numbers, Common Redstarts came out on top, with reports from the eleven locations of Blueberry Farm (Maidwell), Borough Hill, Corby STW, Harrington AF, Honey Hill, Lamport, Lilbourne Meadows NR, Stanford on Avon, Stanford Res, Twywell Hills & Dales and Woodford Halse. There was no more than two at any one location.

Common Redstart, Blueberry Farm, Maidwell, 7th September 2021 (David Smith)

Whinchat numbers held steady, with six locations producing. Borough Hill held the most, with up to six there on 5th-6th, up to five were in the Brampton Valley all week, 2 were at Stoke Albany on 5th and singles were present at Welford Res on 6th, Stanford on 7th and Harrington between 7th and 10th. Northern Wheatears, maintained a low profile with two at Harrington between 7th and 10th, 2 at Braunston on 8th and one in the Brampton Valley on 10th.

Tree Pipit, Stanford Res, 4th September 2021 (Chris Hubbard)

A Tree Pipit lingered at Stanford on 4th and one was reported from Harrington on 9th.